Bye Land, By Sea

Had enough of Havana? Just boat a Cadillac.

by Willie G.

Responsible for such delicious delicacies as the mojito, Cohibas and Christina Milian, you might think that tropical Cuba is an indulgent paradise.

But dictatorships are no picnic, no matter how you slice ‘em. Coming home to find out the government has seized all your possessions for no reason can be kind of a buzzkill. Things like this make the treacherous 90-mile voyage to Florida seem like a wade in the pool. But the government has banned private boat ownership, so it takes a little ingenuity to get afloat.

In an ironic twist, refugees are using old vehicles from the very country that put the strict human and trade embargos in place. A number of daring individuals—dubbed Camionautas (truckonauts)—have rigged Buicks, Chevys and other American old-schools into auto-boats. By attaching the driveshaft to a propeller and using oil drums for flotation, the vessels cruise at about 10mph. One enterprising crew even managed to maintain a working drivetrain that still spun the wheels; the plan was to discard the floats and drive into the land of the free.

According to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (wet foot/dry foot agreement), any Cuban national who reaches U.S. soil is entitled to stay. But only a few such auto-boat crews have had luck. The trip usually ends with a Coast Guard interceptor and a lot of ‘splaining to do. Too bad. This type of Cuban engineering should be welcomed in Detroit.

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